And the Academy Award winner is ... New Zealander Leslie Drever, for technical achievement in the field of microphone windscreen and isolation mount design.

No, it's not the type of awards ceremony likely to draw crowds of fans. Somehow the Scientific and Technical Awards don't have the same appeal as that other, star-studded Oscar award night for artists.

Still, former Aucklander Drever is pleased to say Russell Crowe isn't the only Kiwi in this year's Academy Award lineup.


"People like me make the canvasses and the brushes and the paint. Otherwise the artist has to draw with his finger in the sand," says the 55-year-old owner of Light Wave Systems in California.

"I've done a little acting here and there but it's a second or third-rate profession - it's one step above being a carnival showman and another step above stage magician."

Though Drever's design and development prowess shows a good deal of Kiwi ingenuity, he has picked up a strong Californian accent and a healthy dose of cynicism about the industry he has worked in for 30 years.

It's a "them and us" situation, he explains. No one in Hollywood takes too much notice of the science awards. And he's got further proof of their general ignorance.

"Right here, the average person doesn't even know that New Zealand is winning the yachting races against the Italians and that all the American boats have lost."

Despite his apparent lack of interest in Tinseltown, Drever will collect his certificate with pride at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel on Sunday (the big Oscar ceremony is on March 23).

"It doesn't mean a whole lot, but it does recognise I build beautiful products," he says.

Drever's day in the sun comes after humble beginnings as an apprentice fitter and turner in Auckland in the 60s. He left three years into the five-year course and began male modelling, first in Toronto and then Los Angeles.


Although he kept up a successful modelling career for 20 years, he also began working for Panavision in 1970, building custom-made movie equipment. In 1984 he started Light Wave Systems.

Drever's microphone windscreens and isolation mount are being recognised for "their ability to eliminate physical acoustical rumble and cover a microphone's high sensitivity to wind and other unwanted noises ... without altering or impairing the original frequency response of the microphone."

He says the technical side of moviemaking is improving, but he's not sure about the artistic side.

"The trend downhill began in the 70s. Films went from being everything that I like to everything that I don't like. They no longer represent beauty for its own sake. They're now just pandering to money, to the kids who don't know what they want - except that they're teenagers and filled with needs. So films become obscene, vulgar, smarmy ...

"There are repercussions. People are tired of dinosaurs and bulging muscles and murderers and attackers being held up as ideal."

So are Hollywood film makers running out of ideas? "Well, they've always been somewhat bereft of them."

Drever, in fairness, isn't just down on the movie industry. He's also annoyed about a few other things.

"The banks are telling us they're here to give service and at the same time there are all sorts of hidden fees. Airline companies are stealing from us by not telling about the lowest fare. It didn't used to be that way."

Phew. Wonder what he's going to say in his acceptance speech?